Cisco South Africa today launched the Cisco Edge Incubation Centre, a R10 million incubation hub located at the Pretoria-based Innovation Hub to support local SMMEs.
The centre was established to provide businesses with access to Cisco technology, as well as training and enablement programs. The focus will be on three sectors: the green economy, ICT and bio-economy.
Primarily, SMMEs will have access to digital workspaces, broadband connectivity, video conferencing and collaboration platforms, along with boardroom and training facilities.
There is also an opportunity for entrepreneurs to engage with Cisco experts to "help develop business ideas and concepts in a digital world."
Cisco stressed collaboration with the Innovation Hub in Pretoria and the State Information Technology Agency (SITA). At least 30 SMMEs will be trained annually and given the necessary skills to enable them to compete in the market.
Cisco Country Manager Clayton Naidoo said the initiative has been six months in the making and job creation is at the core of its "circle of opportunity" involving key stakeholders including government and partners.
"We want to focus on SMMEs loyal to Cisco, we want them to design Cisco tech, in collaboration with local and global experts, develop go-to-market models, and earn – which is critical to sustainability," said Naidoo.
Statistics South Africa says the country's unemployment figure is approximately 27,5% in the third quarter, and according to advocate Pieter Holl, acting CEO for the Innovation Hub, 34% of this figure is comprised of unemployed youth.
"The centre allows young people and entrepreneurs to equip themselves with vital and specialised capabilities that will give them a head-start in the fast-paced digital world," said Holl.
According to Cisco its Networking Academy (NetAcad) trained 8,500 students in South Africa in 2017.
Naidoo added this centre will provide the opportunity for SMMEs to employ graduates from the NetAcad programme.
Lethabo Mokone, CEO of SMME and Cisco Premium Partner Makwa IT Technologies (incubated through the networking company), said: "(We) were established in 2012, we are one hundred percent black and youth owned, with engineers that have twenty years plus experience, especially in industry as a whole. We offer various equipment and services throughout ICT, but we specialise in the entire Cisco stack. Cisco always talks about customer enablement and partner enablement, I guess this centre is one of the biggest enablers, because one of the challenges that SMMEs face is being able to showcase the proof-of-concept. With this (centre) we will now be able to bring customers and show them what we are talking about."
"Cisco has repositioned its entire model, previously Cisco would never listen to SMMEs, and they used to prioritise their tier one partners ... today the focus has shifted entirely and Cisco has realised the importance of listening to SMMEs and their contribution. Well done to Cisco for this," Mokone added.
Cisco plans to establish similar centres in Gauteng (Tshimologong), Eastern Cape (East London Industrial Development Zone) and KwaZulu-Natal (Dube Trade Port).